Creature Feature: Black-and-Yellow Rockfish

illustration of a black-and-yellow rockfishBlack-and-yellow rockfish may be found statewide, but they are uncommon north of Mendocino County and south of Point Conception. They range from intertidal depths to around 120 ft., but are most common in depths of 50 ft. or less. [Currently, fishing depth restrictions apply to this species and all groundfish.]

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Olive to black with yellow blotching and spotting
  • Three or more light patches on upper half of body, extending onto dorsal fins and broken patches along lateral line
  • No continuous, lighter band along the lateral line
  • Body essentially the same shape as the gopher rockfish

Life History & Other Notes

Black-and-yellow rockfish feed on crabs, shrimps, fishes including sculpins and rockfish, and squid.

As with all rockfish, fertilization is internal and development of the embryos takes place within the ovaries until the young are ready to hatch. The female then releases the eggs, and exposure to sea water signals the embryos that it is time to escape from the egg cases.

Larval black-and-yellow rockfish drift with the currents until they are almost one inch long, when they take refuge in the upper canopies of kelp forests. As they grow, they move down the kelp until they reach their preferred rocky habitat at the bottom. Individual fish shelter in holes and crevices during the daytime, emerging at dusk. Black-and-yellow rockfish generally stake out home territories of at least 100 square feet.

Black-and-yellow rockfish may be taken in shallow water, and are often targeted by shore-based anglers using cut bait such as squid.

Recreational fishing regulations for this species include depth constraints, seasonal closures, and gear restrictions. As regulations can change in-season, anglers are encouraged to check the CDFW Marine Region website or call the Recreational Groundfish hotline at (831) 649-2801 prior to fishing for current regulations.

Black-and-Yellow Rockfish Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Sebastes chrysomelas

Other Common Names: black-and-yellow garrupa, zurndicky

Range & Habitat: Statewide over rocky or hard bottom, especially between Pt. Conception & Sonoma County

Length & Weight: To 15+ in. and 3+ lb.

Life Span: to 22 years

Diet & Suggested Bait: Feeds on crabs, shrimps, small fishes and squid. Use cut or live bait.

post based on information in the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book with additional information from the Marine Species Portal